Ethical disputes on ebola
The Ebola virus has taken 1,427 lives. The deadly virus has affected over 2, 615 people in various countries in Western Africa this year and continues to sweep throughout the nations with little note of medical intervention. The survival rate of this deadly disease is at best 10 percent.
In this world filled with advanced medical technologies it is hard to believe that we can sit back and watch this fatal virus deplete the African populations. Yet, to little surprise, two American doctors who contracted the disease while working in Liberia were recently released from the hospital with no traces of the Ebola virus in their systems. The doctors were given an experimental drug called Zmapp which has not been released by the FDA for administration. However, in the desperate attempt to save the doctors’ lives, it was deemed acceptable to give them the experimental drug. Meanwhile, their neighbors in Liberia and other West African nations have very little chance of survival.
Now my curiosity has shifted from whether a cure exists to who is worth the risk of this experimental drug. How do we look at a child bleeding from every crevice in Guinea, Liberia or Nigeria and tell him that his life is not worth the risk? How do we tell the African family that there is little or no chance of survival for their mother, child, or brother while others are simultaneously being treated and cured in America?
Why does it take the threat of losing the lives of two American doctors to miraculously “uncover” an experimental drug with capabilities to cure the disease? Thousands of individuals were infected by the Ebola virus before the story of the doctors found its way to the forefront of international news. Although there was concern about the disease spreading across seas there was little intervention from the drug market. I find it very ironic that suddenly an ethical dilemma exists about giving non-FDA approved drugs to African nations. Yet, we seem to be forgetting that they are usually the regions for clinical trials. With the critical need for drug and medical intervention to fight the deadly Ebola virus, why is the risk not worth the cure?
Although I am delighted to hear of the recovery of the American doctors and the possibility of a treatment for this fatal disease, I still do not understand why they were chosen for the experimental drug while the African fatalities continue to escalate. Is it because of their wealth, better access to health care than the patients that they treat or race? Maybe they were just lucky and the FDA picked their names out of a hat and decided that they were going to survive. Or maybe we are still perpetuating the lack of adequate healthcare in African countries by placing more emphasis on the monetary gain of essential drugs than their ability to save the lives of those most desperate for it. Nevertheless, the world cannot afford another Tuskegee Trial.
I am not condoning the use of drugs that have not been released for administration. I know, however, that if I were dying of disease with a 90 percent fatality rate in West Africa, I would want the world to be turned upside-down before I was declared deceased. Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least give someone the chance to survive than to automatically declare them hopeless?
As there is little estimation of when the disease will be curbed, I wonder what would happen if there was suddenly an Ebola outbreak in the United States. Doctors would be in overtime, cities closed and labs exploding with different variations of pills to pop and injections to cure to avoid mass fatalities. All in a desperate effort to save the lives of the American people.
Ebola does not respect race or culture. It does not bow down to higher economic status or give way to more “prestige” ethnicities. So then, why are we?
Kalifa Wright is a Trinity senior. This is her first column of the semester.